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14-year-old excites Japan with record chess debut


TOKYO — A 14-year-old boy is taking his country by storm with a record-breaking start to his pro career in the Japanese version of chess.

Sota Fujii broke a 30-year-old record with his 29th win in a row. His face was plastered across front pages of major newspapers Tuesday, getting bigger display than the bankruptcy filing of Japanese air bag maker Takata.

The game of “shogi” is similar to chess, although players may reuse captured game pieces as their own. Fujii defeated 19-year-old opponent Yasuhiro Masuda after a more than 11-hour battle that ended Monday night.

He became the youngest player ever to qualify to enter the professional ranks last October, and has reeled off 29 straight victories since his first pro match in December.

Japan’s Kyodo News agency says public interest in the game has not been as high since 1996, when a master won all seven top championships in the same year.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weighed in Tuesday, telling reporters that Fujii had made history with a victory that he thinks will give other Japanese hopes and dreams.

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